U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has recently been dominating headlines, whether by accepting a phone call from Taiwanese leader Tsai Ing-wen or making comments about China’s currency devaluation and the South China Sea issue.
Trump's focus on China in his tweets is not a new phenomenon. He has tweeted about China hundreds of times in the past few years, and dozens of times during his presidential campaign. But in the past, his aggressive words were usually intended to make himself look good by criticizing President Obama's administration. On the other hand, repeating such sentiments after his election to the office of president may imply actual policy plans, which his administration intends to adopt.
Many people have expressed skepticism about Trump’s qualifications, given his lack of political, diplomatic and military experience, as well as his poor understanding of China-U.S. ties. Indeed, such doubts have been reinforced by his recent aggressive words.
To some extent, Trump’s remarks indicate that he is partial when it comes to China-U.S. ties. For instance, he shied away from facts when discussing the exchange rate, trade and South China Sea. He seemed not to comprehend the basic guidelines of bilateral ties, treating China like an opponent rather than a partner.
The two nations need to ensure the smooth continuation of their bilateral relationship, but doing so requires a joint effort - not a one-sided attempt. China will persist in facilitating communication and dialogue. In response to Trump’s biased understanding of China-U.S. relations, China will explain its stances and the reasons behind those positions.
Trump’s transition team should realize that China and the U.S. must not be held back by disputes, bearing in mind that both countries are major powers with mutual interests. To throw a tantrum about China will neither solve domestic issues in the U.S. nor address the real challenges facing Trump’s new administration. Besides, a shaky China-U.S. relationship cannot “make America great again.”
At the same time, China will maintain strategic foresight. Trump's reckless tweets are just a cover for his real intentions. Based on years of experience, it's clear that the U.S. often has a two-sided China policy, which is revealed by Trump's actions.
From the perspective of strategy, China’s diplomatic policy conforms to international trends. No matter how the U.S. adjusts its foreign policy, it has to choose cooperation with China; the rise of China cannot be impeded. China will follow its own path, earning more allies and embarking on mutually beneficial cooperations. Meanwhile, the choices of the U.S. will be restricted as a result.
Trump has already brought changes to China-U.S. ties. However, it's essential to remember in this moment of transition for both the American government and China-U.S. relations that what both sides need most is strategic foresight and determination.
(The author is a commentator for People’s Daily and senior research fellow at the Chinese Institute of International Studies.)